Editorial: The Desolation of the American Church - Come Out of Babylon

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, the United States of America selected as its next president a man who repeatedly, deliberately and unapologetically denigrated minority groups of every stripe, vilified immigrants, insulted women, mocked those with disabilities and defamed all of his political rivals. A man who routinely cheated his workers out of payment, and who joked about sexually assaulting people. A man who was unfaithful to all of his marital partners and who throughout his campaigns encouraged acts of violence (celebrating the violence when it erupted). A man who lied at every turn and who threatened any who exposed his lies.

That his general election rival made significant missteps (which she acknowledged and for which she apologized on multiple occasions) cannot diminish the utter moral bankruptcy of America’s president-elect.

We should be very clear about some things.

First, white supremacy is making its last stand in America. Exit polling demonstrates that among white voters over the age of 50, Donald Trump enjoyed wide margins of support. Trump did it in no small part by appealing to white voters’ demographic phobias. CNN commentator Van Jones called it a white lash against a changing country. White Americans are an irreversibly shrinking portion of the U. S. population, and this election portends the beginning of the end of white power. If people of color had been the only voters on Tuesday, Donald Trump would have lost all fifty states. Every. Single. One.

Second, the Christian Church in the United States, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, shares his moral bankruptcy. Tuesday saw the desolation of the American Church. White Evangelicals, in particular, formed the backbone of Trump’s support according to exit polls. With Trump as their chosen leader, Evangelical appeals to “family values” or posturing as moral leaders is thoroughly vacuous. Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Survey has documented the dropping off of religious adherence and the rise of those who profess no faith at all. By doubling down on the exclusionary and anti-scientific ethos that so many cite as the reason they have abandoned faith, the Church effectively signed its own death certificate, though it may remain on life support for some time to come.

Third, the Seventh-day Adventist Church since its earliest days has cultivated the concept of a remnant -- a select people who “come out of her” (the corrupt and corrupting religio-political system symbolized by Babylon), who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, and who are faithful to the commands of God. The opportunity to be that remnant people has finally presented itself in the clearest terms.

Donald Trump’s campaign called into question the value of many groups of people, telling them they don’t belong. Today those people rightly feel hurt and afraid. The Adventist Church in North America has an opportunity now to speak words of affirmation, inclusion and love, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

Donald Trump’s campaign disempowered people of color. The Adventist Church, the most racially diverse religious group in North America, has the opportunity to stand alongside the disempowered today, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

Donald Trump’s campaign encouraged violence against protesters and against foreign nations. The Adventist Church in North America can reclaim the legacy of Desmond Doss who refused to hold a weapon amid unspeakable violence; it can promote peacemaking in a world that wants to fight, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

Donald Trump’s campaign vowed to dismantle the legislation that brought healthcare coverage to millions who didn’t have it and to slash funding for nonprofits that promote reproductive rights and care for women. The Adventist Church in North America, which owns and operates some of the preeminent not for profit healthcare facilities in the world, can champion the causes of reproductive rights and access to health care, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

The Christian Church in North America has forfeited its moral voice by rejecting the values of the Kin-dom of Heaven. Those who believe that God calls a fragmentary people to come apart from the self-immolating Babylonian shambles, now is your time.

Demonstrate love, inclusion, solidarity. Now is your time. Care for the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you. Now is your time. Give voice to the voiceless, do justice, love mercy. Now is your time.

This morning I took my three-year-old son with me to the Planned Parenthood facility just blocks from my house. Unsure of what to do or say, I walked up to the counter and introduced myself as someone from the neighborhood who wanted to say thanks to the workers there. The receptionist teared up, thanked me, and asked me to wait for some staff members to come talk to me. I waited for a few minutes until two employees came out. I told them I live nearby and I appreciate them. We shared hugs and tears as they told me how they hear so often from people who oppose them, and how seldom they hear appreciation. They told me how hard it has been for their entire staff to come to work this morning.

If we have affirmation and appreciation to give, now is the time.

I’ve made plans to visit an Islamic Center near my house during prayer time this afternoon. I made a card that I plan to deliver with some flowers. The note says simply, “I value you and respect you. You are a welcome part of this community. Love, your Christian neighbor.”

If we have the opportunity to extend healing and hope, now is the time.

I’ve often found the notion of a remnant people to be unnecessarily exclusivistic and self-congratulatory, but there is something deeply compelling about a people who stand apart, in faithful opposition to empire, in order to follow the enduring command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Love still trumps hate.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7739
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Well said Jared!
Our love and care for people must mirror Jesus attitude and actions.Indeed we may be forced out of Babylon. Blessings from ‘down under’

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"Second, the Christian Church in the United States, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, shares his moral bankruptcy. "

I wonder if the Christian Church had supported Hillary would they share her moral bankruptcy or just be supporting someone who made missteps! Well of course we know the answer because Clinton’s actions past and present are just considered missteps while Trump has to be enumerated in the article. Which should leave one to ask Is it the flawed person that got elected or the philosophical ideas behind the person that got the support. If it is the ideas. then how does one condemn the church for moral bankruptcy?

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Thank you! Wonderful article and demonstration of love to your community.

A couple of questions, what do you define as “coming out of Babylon”? and did you mistype when you typed “Kin-dom” or was it intentional?

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Thank you for this misguided and offensive article that conflates theology and politics in quite ridiculous ways.

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While I agree with pretty much everything in the article, the practical reality is that the political left across the world must come to understand that if people feel that their culture, values, way of life is under threat they will elect anybody (even someone otherwise unpalatable) who will put the breaks on.

People are willing to accept incremental change but the actions of someone like Angela Merkel alone have caused tremendous alarm. She may as well have erected Trumps wall herself. The political left cooks its own goose when it forces too much change too quickly and arrogantly tells others what is right and wrong.

A Trump has been a long time coming. Some Americans are shocked but these are our people. This is the US speaking. The US is not just Long Island. For good or for bad many have obviously felt forced to stay mute for PC reasons for fear of being called a bigot.

The left needs to start over by listening a bit more rather than telling even the poor and marginalised that they have it great because of the colour of their skin.

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I was with you until you decided that as an Adventist you should go and thank the people at Planned Parenthood who have made it their lifetime careers to kill unborn children. Talk about moral bankruptcy!

You celebrate the right you had at one point to kill your son before he was born as it if some moral good. How sick is that?

I am disappointed to tears with the election result, and what it portends for the LGBT community, but if there is one positive it is that unborn children will finally have some recognition of their rights as human beings.

One drop of urine can ruin an entire bottle of the finest wine and that’s what you’ve accomplished in this essay.

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Marcelo,

Thanks. I think coming out of Babylon is many different things in many different contexts, but for the purposes of this article, it might mean rejection of vilifying, discriminatory, violent behavior and rhetoric to secure power. Further, the religious alliance with political power that behaves that way seems pretty Babylonian.

Kin-dom is my preferred descriptor. I think it is rich with possibility. I am less enamored of “kingdom” framework for a number of reasons.

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What a beautiful article Jared! You have me crying with visiting those two very special places!
I am no longer an Adventist because of discrimination I experienced because of my gender. I know God doesn’t discriminate. I don’t like where the church has gone with many issues. It saddens my heart, so I am not up to date on the some of your statements. I do appreciate your efforts and articles. Your heart is definitely not discriminatory.
I just hope Trump is more like his acceptance speech than his campaign rhetoric.
One mom in a transgender support group for moms of transgender kids reported 8 children committing suicide last nite. It broke my heart to hear that! Another woman reported her husband called to tell her of 3 men arrested for rape who said that Trump thought it was okay to rape women, so they should rape women.
I can only hope for more positive outcomes going forth. No matter our political belief, reaching out in love and kindness goes a long way.
Thank you for the inspiration!

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Naturally, this article is going to be divisive. The SDA church is non-partisan, and its members fall across the spectrum.

One observation I make is that as goes the nation, so goes the church. Sometimes it is the other way around. The USA will be headed by someone who, among other things, is a bully. The SDA church is also headed by a person who is dedicated to achieving his agenda, regardless of the fallout.

Now, if the SDA church were headquartered in Europe, would its leaders be tempered by the culture they find themselves in. It is not difficult to conclude that the SDA leaders at the GC have acquired some of the characteristics of the culture they are in. “You’re Fired” and associated management techniques are more likely to be found in the US than in Europe and the south pacific.

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I voted for Hillary because of all the horrific thing Trump has said and done. I did so not out of support for Hillary whom I saw as an arrogant, corrupt, unlikeable politician but against a man I simply can’t stand. But at the end of the day I’m beginning to understand why Trump won.

I think the notion that Clinton’s extreme liberalism would shape America for generations to come was too much to bear for most white, Evangelical Christians. They put their vision America before the person “Trump” whom over 60% of voters can’t stand either. Trump is a deeply flawed candidate and human being but the social conservativism his entire party represents is what voters want for America now.

So I choose to respect the outcome and pray that America will be stronger because of the checks and balance this election represents. America is greater than Trump.

I share here a prayer that helped me keep things in perspective:

"Father, heal our nation. Please heal us of our divisiveness. Give us clarity to believe the old spiritual, “You’ve got the whole world in your hands.” Whether we are sad or happy on this day after, we come to you recognizing that our hope, our security, our freedom, our prosperity, our future are not in any President’s hands, but they are all safely in your hands.

Thank you that you have given us the privilege to live in a land where we get to vote, where there is a political system with checks and balances, and where we enjoy the miracle of peaceful transitions in government. Teach us in the aftermath of this election, to not just look to our own interests as winners or losers, but also to the interests of others. Teach us how to best serve and help those we are able to help, that we might be part of making this world better because of our time in it.

We pray that your peace will reign in our lives through the power of your Holy Spirt. We offer this prayer to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

(Andy McDonald, Florida Hospital Church).

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What is interesting to me about the “liberal/progressive theology” is their ability to NOT see their own desire to transition society by political means according to their vision. They in fact do have the desire to create their neo-dominion view on others in an actual church state spiritual union.
Interestingly , liberals can’t decide weather we should or shouldn’t have “religious morals” except as they assume the right to evaluate the appropriate balance.
I would remind Jared and others it was “liberal theology” that drove the magazine “Christian Century” at the turn of the 20th Century that tended to have a dominionist view for this world.
Trump is not perfect nor is corrupt Hillary. To call on the “filtered” come out of Babylon due to Trump is indeed tortuous false exegesis.
I see Trump as having the view as held by the founders of the US Constitution that allows the State to be the state and bear the sword against all forms of evil doers. It’s primary purpose is not “Grace” but Justice under law.
Religions all have the right to exist but not in violations of the citizenship in general. Congress should make no laws respecting or prohibiting lawful beliefs of religion.
So finally I see coming out of Babylon as not letting the church and state have a utilitarian union for their own dominionist vision of society such as Barth opposed the German church for doing with the “Ecstatic herasy” under Hitler which included a “love and unity” plea and minimizing of biblical doctrine. Thus the formation of the “Confessing Church” by Barth and Bonhoeffer.
So, I see separation as well in this country and churches should look in the mirror to see if they present the gospel of Christ of which there is no other good news to this complex world.
Let the Father decide when the judgment will come against those who refuse the gospel of Christ.
Regards,
Pat

The hate speech against Trump voiced inappropriately so often by columnist, editors and contributors so often in this campaign
is now being shared by some of the anarchist in protest as well as assassination threats to the President elect on Twitter. Your narrative against Trump has been full of hyperbole and false facts from the beginning calling him a Facist, racist, xenophobe etc… You and many others should apologize. The President and Clinton should immediately call for this to stop and Spectrum editors should also apologize for adding to the false message. Liberals are for free speech as long as you agree.

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This editorial has the substance that suggests it was well thought through before the outcome of the election was known. And its call is surely the proper call to Seventh-day Adventism.

And it is to the credit of the losing candidate that her one-America concession speech was of such a caliber that had it perhaps somehow been the stump speech she would have been privileged to have delivered most of it as her winning speech.

And it is to the credit of the president, who campaigned against the president elect, that he committed himself to not only a smooth transition between presidencies, but to offer his true and best wishes as a citizen for the success of the president who will replace him in the Oval Office.

Those of us who are American do well to accept the support through well wishes of non-Americans as we now move forward as one America, committed to seeing that we ever keep in mind ourselves as ‘one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

I came looking for Spectrum’s response to the election results. In so many ways, well done, Jared.

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Hi Ron,
Good questions. I would say that, while we’ve understandably gotten hung up on Trump’s personal flaws, it is his ideology that is the most troubling. Make America Great Again? Win, win, win and win some more? Put America first? To me, these are the words and ideas of a person who has rejected the call of Christ to serve, to love, to be humbled. I would argue that, just as in interpersonal relationships, it is in our nation’s best interest to recognize that we are part of a greater human family. To grow beyond the need to be “great” and seek to be GOOD. To understand that “winning” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Winning is only the creation of losers and is mutually exclusive of cooperation and often of goodwill as well. Winning is only holding out to lose next time around. Putting “America first” is only a recipe for eventual disaster. Like a bully in a playground, the gig only lasts until a bigger or meaner kid comes along. For “the first shall be last and last shall be first”.

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How was God in control of the outcome of this 2016 presidential election?

There is an internet site …"40 Cliches Christians Should Never Use"
Here is one cliché related to this quarter/week’s Sabbath school topic:

'God is in control.’ ---- This raises a very fundamental problem of Theodicy, which most Christians I’ve met who say this are not necessarily prepared to address. Theodicy is the dilemma between belief in an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful God with the existence of evil and/or suffering in the world. And the other problem is that, if you believe that human beings have free will (a central tenet of most Christian thought), it needs to be recognized that that, in itself, is a concession of control by God. And like other phrases I’ve mentioned about God’s role in daily life, be careful in tossing this one around. Telling someone who was raped, abused, tortured, neglected, etc. that God was in control during that experience likely is enough to incent that person to turn from the concept of God forever.”

One can worship an idol of a deist God, a low involved God, an overly involved God or a God that Jesus lived to demonstrate.

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” JN 17:3

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The Accusation of Womenizing.
We were OK with JFK.
We were OK with Clinton. Hillary was his facilitator both as Governor and as President.
What about the incident on the plane with Obama and the female news reporters wanting to “get a better look”?
Is Donald Trump worse than JFK, than Clinton, than Obama?

Trump got elected on the platform of 1. Make American Great Again. 2. Close the borders to illegals, but keep open for the legals. 3. Lower taxes. 4. Energy independence. 5. Create conditions for persons to create businesses which would create jobs. 6. Create conditions for overseas companies to return to the U.S. with their money stashed in overseas accounts.
People voted for Hillary in spite of her Legal and Marital baggage. People voted for Donald in spite of the womanizing, tax evasion, etc. accusations.

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i think trump’s election is a total disaster…the thousands of protesters marching in america’s cities today are, i believe, a harbinger of things to come…trump is deluding himself if he thinks the country is going to fall in line behind him merely because he said, in his victory speech, that it’s time for people to come together…no-one is going to forget that trump himself has been the most brazenly divisive candidate anyone has ever seen…

i wish america well, but i do believe its choice is a major error…a person with such character flaws as trump probably has little moral authority to lead…he probably has even less capacity to inspire…anyone pinning any hope on trump is probably in for a rude awakening before too long…

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Thank you for this excellent article, Jared! I’m frankly shocked at some of the vitriolic comments on it by, I assume, fellow Seventh-day Adventists, who seem to have entirely missed the point of being a Seventh-day Adventist. We are to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. As a Canadian, who has both studied and worked in the U.S.A. at various times, as well as having a number of relatives on that side of the border, I think your analysis and suggestions are spot on. I applaud your actions in reaching out into your community. In fact, one of my reactions today was to look up women’s organizations in my area with the intent to make a positive difference. Love indeed trumps hate. Don’t lose heart–there are many of us who stand with you!

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People have this love thing completely wrong. Love is not just being nice and letting everyone do as they please as long as they’re not visibly hurting others. That’s just being plain weak. Love is stopping others do things which will hurt them, whether they realise it it not. Love is discipline, sometimes harsh discipline. Love is warning someone if they’re headed in the wrong direction, even if they’ll be offended. Love is not just affirming all the stupid ideas our friends come up with on Facebook. Love is asking “should you really be doing that, is it a good idea?” even if they unfriend you. Very few people do that. Most seem to say “congratulations”.

And where did we ever get the idea that governments can’t legislate on moral issues? That have every right to do so, for the greater good of society. Not only that, according to Paul the government should be a terror to the evildoer. We have got that completely wrong in the West in the last century.

Oh and by the way Trump trumps Hillary. That’s democracy. The four angels get to hold back the four winds a bit longer.

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The political left and right are not the answer to the problems. BUT the open, vocal, morally corrupt president elect being supported by “moral” evangelicals does indicate a powerless gospel preached. They are willing to use political power to bring this nation “back to God”. A living connection with God individually is the only way to raise godly morality. I have been surprised by the number of my fellow Adventist church members who so willingly and WITHOUT reservation accept a Fox news vision of the world. Back to FDR, JFK, Clinton… They were on some level more private about their immoral behavior. Trump has celebrated his immoral behavior publicly…

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